The friend who will cheer for the dream despite disappointment? The problem solving friend? The friend who will wallow in the sadness with me for a few minutes? The friend who will say what I want to hear?
Stars are visible in the night sky. I drive silent. The Holy Spirit touches my heart and I sense a, “How about you tell Me first?”
This leads me to ask myself, How many times do I tell God last?
This time I choose differently. I turn off the car and sit in the driveway to converse with our Creator before approaching the threshold into house chores, next day work prep, mom, wife, and caregiver roles.
The publisher that stayed in touch since June and seemed to seriously consider my manuscript finally sent the decision email. I’m sad, Lord. She’s passing. I really thought she was the person to take next steps with me. Please show me what to do going forward. I surrender to Your will for this book. Amen.”
One thing I’ve learned especially in the last two years is that every time I am perplexed the best choice is to surrender. Immediately.
What to do will become clear soon. For now I will be still and listen.
Exodus 14:14. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.
I’ve noticed that loss and loneliness often go hand in hand.
To stay the course of cleaning out our home of 20 years before putting the house on the market, I’ve said no to several fun get togethers and adventures this summer. Spending hours alone in a dusty basement is a recipe for lonely. Ugh.
I remember 10 years ago feeling lonely as I grieved the deaths of my mom and sister-in-law. No matter what interactions I shared with people the fog of loss did not lift for many months. The grieving dominated while I went through the motions of life as best I could.
This loss is different. I am thankful to not have the intense brain fog, but my mind is noticeably strained with long to do lists and some sadness nonetheless.
While sorting items from our home, I relive memories of friends and family over the years. Cards, pictures, movie tickets, toys, and journals have resurfaced.
I laugh out loud, snap a picture to capture certain memories before tossing items, and give thanks for the experiences. I don’t need the fading construction paper from my children’s preschool masterpieces, but I do want a remaining image of their artwork in case I choose to revisit digital pictures that do not require space or dusting in our next home.
I feel lucky for friends in my life whether they are here for a season, reason, or ongoing. I’ve had time to think about friends and how much they’ve meant to me along life’s trail. I am reminded to text or email girlfriends I haven’t spoken with in a while. And close friends who know what’s going on have helped or offered to help in this process.
It’s like I’m in adult time out.
I have long talks with God on my worn path to Goodwill.
Memories made with friends along the trail of life improve my energy. Oh, and ibuprofen could almost be called a friend at this point too! Ouch, my muscles hurt.
Sometimes I think when this is over I will spend a week in bed, but I really won’t do that when the time arrives. I will call a friend and choose an adventure.
When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together? When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand? How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity? When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?
As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons: every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words. My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years. I knew their childhood would end. I treasured their soft skin and cuddles. I would not squander those moments. And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.
What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband. Yes, I appreciated him. Yes, we tried to spend time together. Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate. Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other. But did I truly cherish him? I didn’t think he was leaving. And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either. My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.
Grief arrives in many forms. Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship. I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away. You may have too. And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future. Our youngest child is a teenager. I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together. But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon. We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up. We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.
I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house. It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place. We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here. I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see. Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon. What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force. A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends. He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.
On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night. Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement? Apparently yes. This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster. Time is not waiting for me. I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first. I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with. These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt. For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now. His kind words mean a lot to me. We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days. It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental. I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.
Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size? It takes time to grapple with it. If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment. I’d love to hear from you.
You might think that someone who was a psych major would already know this, but what I am about to share is something I’ve only figured out how to do in the last 18 months. I am not an expert, but I am getting better and practicing.
As children many of us are taught to suppress undesirable emotions. For example, we may be told don’t be mad, sad, cry or demonstrate feelings that might make someone else (like a parent perhaps) feel uncomfortable.
Nowadays in my work I find more and more information that states it is important to validate a child’s emotions. Tell the child it is ok to feel what they feel, and then encourage them to think carefully about what actions they will do next while being aware of their feelings.
Sidebar: Jesus had all the emotions while on earth that we have too. It’s how we utilize those emotions that matters. We can welcome the feeling(s) and still be in control of our behavior choices.
Recently I told a friend, “Not that you are…but be enraged if you need to be. Use it. Maybe you need a little mad to keep moving. Feel the feels and let them pass through your body. Then get back to work.”
I have found that if I fight the feels, then it takes longer for me to get on track. I have learned to:
Pause. Allow myself to take a time out when I need it.
Identify the emotion or emotions.
Say in acknowledgement “I feel _______ (fill in the blank).”
Visualize the emotion(s) pass through my body.
Repeat as needed. Breathe and exhale through the process. Release the pain if needed. Sometimes I thank the emotion for stopping by and for reminding me that I am human.
This process validates rather than fights the feeling.
Fighting or suppressing emotions derails my time management.
Validating and identifying an emotion normalizes my feelings and takes much less time to address.
Another time saver is when I pray, “God here is________. Take it. Lead me in the direction I should go.” I am done figuring out anything that my Higher Power can bust through walls and decipher for me.
We have grace for others, we need to have grace for ourselves too. I’m trying to do so anyway. It is hard!
God has adamant love for you. You are not alone.
Proverbs 3:26 …for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
All the above being said, emotions that get in the way ongoing should be addressed with a professional. Be brave and seek help from your doctor or therapist as needed. There is so much power and freedom to be found in tapping into the truth about ourselves.